Thursday, January 30, 2014

In My Wheelhouse

Do you ever hear a phrase and wonder where it came from? I do, all the time. So much so, in fact, that I just hopped over and bought this book for some enlightening bathroom reading: Flying by the Seat of Your Pants.
A phrase I heard recently and have been thinking about is “in your wheelhouse.” I’ll be honest—the source, I think, was Keith Urban on American Idol, and I knew it meant the repertoire of a performer, or the set of skills a person possesses. But what IS a wheelhouse, really? It brings to mind a shed stacked with old bicycle tires, or a house that can roll on its side.
Here’s the scoop:

The idiom “in my/your/his wheelhouse” may have originated in baseball, circa 1950s, possibly earlier. It’s used to describe the zone that is most advantageous for a batter, the range within which he is most likely to hit. Like a sweet spot. This metaphor may allude to a railroad wheelhouse (also called roundhouse), a platform used to spin a train engine or car for transfer to another track. Or it may have a nautical precedent, the pilothouse or wheelhouse of a ship, from where the vessel is controlled. So in widening this beyond baseball, it becomes “an area of knowledge, specific interest, familiarity,” or to designate two things in the same category.

I really like the thought of each person having a wheelhouse, a set of capabilities or strengths. Doesn’t mean you can’t or won’t hit outside of them, just that you’re strongest within them. And if the wheelhouse is the place where the steering happens, your strengths provide the direction to your life and you can take them any place you desire. Every ship needs a captain. We are fueled by our talents but they don’t have to define us; we still have the capacity to turn this way or that.
The Urban Dictionary gives another definition. The wheelhouse, it says, can refer to someone’s mind. As in getting into someone’s wheelhouse to disturb them.

So stay in control your wheelhouse and where it goes, people! You’re the captain and don’t let anyone in to throw shade on your talents. Oh, no. Now I have to go look up “throw shade,” which I don’t even think I’m using correctly…

1 comment:

  1. Children can have their 'wheelhouse' so easily obscured by short-sighted adults. '... don’t let anyone in to throw shade on your talents ...' is good advice, an apt description. It often takes a life time to discover that sweet-spot of excellence again.


"As soon as we express something, we devalue it strangely. We believe ourselves to have dived down into the depths of the abyss, and when we once again reach the surface, the drops of water on our pale fingertips no longer resemble the ocean from which they came...Nevertheless, the treasure shimmers in the darkness unchanged." ---Franz Kafka